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Hanley Ramirez: Keeper Conundrum

Those following the shortstop keeper posts have noticed Hanley Ramirez’s absence. Excluding Ramirez was intentional, as his ranking process deserves its own post.

From 2007-2010 he dominated the shortstop position, and fantasy baseball as a whole. Ramirez hit .319/.394/.532 and averaged 26 home runs, 82 runs batted in, and 36 stolen bases. Entering 2011, Ramirez’s production had made him a no-doubt top tier choice year in and out. Exiting 2011, Ramirez is something of a question mark. In addition to a .712 OPS, Ramirez missed the final two months after having surgery to repair his right shoulder—the same shoulder that was operated on after the 2007 season. Ramirez reportedly injured the shoulder diving for a ball in early August, but missed 15 games in June with sciatica and numbness issues. Seemingly healthy, Ramirez looked like his old self in abusing the month of July to the tune of an .896 OPS, providing no answers to whether the sciatica issue relented, or if something else contributed to his poor first three months.

Ramirez did improve each month, although, it’s hard not to when you put up a .558 OPS in April and .666 in May with his talent level. Concerning is Ramirez’s continued decline in power. His isolated power dipped from .239 in 2008 to .175 in 2010, with a .201 offering in 2009. Reports suggest Ramirez is hale and hearty, but it’s hard to be optimistic that a player with two shoulder surgeries and a steady decline in power output is going to bounce back to form.

So, where does that leave Ramirez? If you think he rebounds to an MVP caliber level once again you’d obviously put him in the first tier. What if, like me, you have reservations? I’m inclined to believe he belongs in the second tier with Asdrubal Cabrera, Starlin Castro, Elvis Andrus and Jimmy Rollins. There are some pessimists out there; would placing him in tier three along with Emilio Bonifacio, J.J. Hardy and Jhonny Peralta make sense? A reasonable argument can be made for each scenario, and that means Ramirez, who is a polarizing figure in the real world, is now the subject of much debate in fantasy, too.